Each year, approximately 1 in 10 babies are born premature or low birth weight. With the right care and nutrition, such births can be reduced and babies can live happy, healthy lives. DreamBig is an education series dedicated to raising awareness on prematurity, brought you by Abbott, the leader in Paediatric Nutrition.
Like most parents of premature babies, you’re probably both excited and anxious about taking your baby home. The time you spent at the hospital during his / her progress may have been a challenge. Your transition from hospital to home, and getting into a comfortable routine, will take time as well.
In the first days after your baby was born, you adjusted to the fact that he / she was born earlier than expected. Many parents blame themselves for their baby’s premature birth. Or, they feel guilty because they don’t feel like they did enough to avoid the premature birth. These reactions are normal.
During the days in the hospital, you and your baby developed bonds that will grow even stronger now that you’re home. This is a lifelong process of attachment that is important to healthy development.
You may be concerned about your baby’s development. As a parent, you may have certain ideas about when your baby should smile, roll over, sit, walk and talk.
When considering your baby’s development, think in terms of his / her “adjusted age”. You can find it by subtracting the number of months your baby was born early from his / her actual age.
Adjusted age gives parents and health care professionals a realistic view of a premature baby’s progress. A 5-month-old baby who was born 3 months early should be considered a 2 month-old from a developmental point of view.
|Your baby’s actual age||_______ months|
|(-) Number of months premature||_______ months|
|(=) Adjusted Age||_______ months|
Always place your baby in a government-approved, rear-facing safety seat in the back seat of your car. A premature baby in a car seat will need extra support to keep her/his body straight so she/he can breathe easily. Rolled-up blankets and cloth diapers can provide padding to keep her/him from slumping over and will help prevent excessive movement.
You may want to buy diapers that are designed to fit premature infants.
Keep your baby’s room at a comfortable temperature (at low to mid 28 degree C). A baby under 3.6kg doesn’t have much insulating baby fat and has trouble coping with temperature changes. Because the skin of a premature baby is sensitive, keep your baby out of direct sunlight. Also, try to avoid cold drafts and extremely low humidity.
Once you get your baby home, give yourself a few weeks of adjustment time before having company. Ensure that visitors are healthy. Insist that they wash their hands with warm water and soap before touching baby. Be aware that kissing can spread infections. Hug her/him gently or stroke her/his head instead.
Keep bath time as short as possible. Premature babies lose body heat quickly.
Tips for Relieving Your Stress:
- Whenever possible, sleep when your baby sleeps. Take turns caring for him/her.
- Gladly accept family and friends help with cooking, cleaning and running errands, if offered.
- Take time-outs. Privacy and recreation for you are essential.
- Talking to other parents of premature infants can help lower anxiety and stress. Check with the NICU staff on parent support groups.
Your Baby’s Future:
Most premature infants develop normally. Only a small percentage of babies born early have serious long term problems.
Many famous people were premature infants. They include Mark Twain, Albert Einstein, Anna Pavlova and Winston Churchill.
One of the most important factors in the development of premature infants is their home environment. Your loving attention and care will help your baby develop to his/her full potential.
It’s easy for parents to become overly protective of their premature baby – even when the doctors or nurse has assured them that all is well. In these families, the child may become dependent and demanding. As a parent of a premature infant, you need to help your child develop emotionally as well as physically. As your baby grows, you can help him/her adjust by setting schedules and limits.
Stay in touch with your baby’s doctor and nurses. They can reassure you about your baby’s progress and help you develop workable schedules. Having a daily routine is essential to healthy parent-child relationship that you both need.
Here’s wishing you and your baby good health and many happy years ahead.
Dream Big – Turn Small Started into Big Futures with Trusted Nutrition Science.